Hanna Hörnberg

Max Delbrück Center in Berlin

Title: Molecular mechanisms of social behaviors

Abstract: Alterations in social interaction and communication are common symptoms of many neurodevelopmental conditions. These conditions are diverse, with a large heterogeneity of clinical features and high rates of symptom overlap between different diagnoses. Genes associated with neurodevelopmental conditions can be grouped functionally into convergent pathways, with the most prominent ones including synaptic function and translational regulation. However, the relationship between convergent genetic pathways and symptomatic variability is poorly understood. I will discuss our work using mouse models to examine the link between genotype, signaling pathway, and phenotype. We use automated behavioral readouts in freely-interacting animals to measure differences in social behaviors in multiple mouse models, with the goal of identifying molecular mechanisms that can explain individual variability. We have identified an unexpected convergence between two of the core pathways linked to neurodevelopmental conditions: synaptic proteins and translational regulation, and show that modulating translation can restore social behaviors. Focusing on such convergent mechanisms at the intersection of multiple signaling pathways could represent a promising method to identify treatments that cut across clinical diagnoses and etiological factors.